We've all fallen victim to leaping before looking -- speaking before thinking, taking a road trip without consulting a map, not calling ahead for reservations, or not devoting enough time to planning for a web development project. As information architects, it's our job to make sure that all the details of the project process are considered before a line of code is written.
In a recent article at A List Apart entitled Avoid Edge Cases by Designing Up Front, Ben Henick serves us a great outline of what to consider during the planning and assessment process of a web development project. For many web projects, design is considered too soon. Henick makes a strong case for adding the following steps to the process - assessment, personas and scenarios, wireframes, and style guides. These are all things that are considered as part of the user experience and design process in order to ensure an optimal experience for the audience of the site.
By adding these steps to the design process, the project can benefit from things like a well-defined scope, early identification of user experience issues (through scenarios, user testing, etc), and a well-established context and purpose.
Consider Henick's advice in his article the next time you embark on a web design project. Remember, look before you leap.